No doubt you've heard many different terms thrown around when talking with experts about call centers versus answering services. Some of those terms might become confusing when you hear varying terminology used.
In reality, there's a significant difference between what an answering service and call center does. An answering service is a service where a third party company takes and relays messages on behalf of a business. A call center does the same but can use complex scripts to answer frequently asked questions, take orders over-the-phone, qualify leads, or manage other types of communication such as web chat and email.
How An Answering Service Can Vary
Answering service agents typically act as an in-house receptionist, but they can also act as an after hours assistant to ensure a company does not miss phone calls. There is so much variety to what an answering service does: they can dispatch calls that a company may consider urgent such as an emergency maintenance request from a tenant or dispatch an emergency request from a patient who just had dental work performed.
An answering service handles calls for any type of business for any reason: to book an appointment or check in on an employee that may be working remotely or out on the field.
The Key Difference Is in Scripting
A key difference between an answering service from a call center is in the script. In the case of our company, we interact with a script-prompted system that allows our business customers to create simple or complex scripts for our agents to follow.
If a client needs more than a simple interaction then we offer script-branching, which provides different branches for each decision point during an interaction between your customers and our agents. Therefore, simple scripts are for answering services and complex scripts are for call center services.
Our business model acts more as a scale between these two services, which is why we custom build proposals for our potential customers: a business may not need a full-fledged support team with an outsourced Help Desk department and a Customer Service department. At the same time, an organization may need more than just message-taking.
A flexible call center tends to work very well with those looking for a BPO solution.
What is a Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) Call Center?
A BPO call center is simply a 3rd party call center that a company uses for the purpose of reducing operations expenditure. If you are a professional responsible for contracting out the communication functions of your company, then you likely want to go with a call center as opposed to an answering service just in case you need more robust support down the road.
You might start out only needing someone to act as an in-house receptionist, but as your communications partner familiarizes itself with your company brand, you might find yourself wanting to use the same 3rd party company to handle communication for other departments as well.
Your Help Desk support team may be inundated with password reset requests, your Marketing department may have a campaign that is more successful than originally anticipated, or you may want someone to be available to answer questions via web chat on your company website.
Identify & Build Relationships With Key Stakeholders
A business culture that is relationship-building by nature is important in whichever communications partner you choose. Evaluate how accessible those key employees are when answering your questions or concerns.
For example, does the salesperson thoroughly answer all of your questions about setting up an account? Do you get to speak directly to those handling your account without jumping through hoops?
You can identify key members in a call center and leverage their influence in the company to provide a seamless branding experience for your company. In our company's case, we refer to our salespeople as Account Executives because their main concern is setting up a custom solution for you and ensuring your account gets executed properly. Then, we have our Client Services team which is the team that will troubleshoot your account, set your go-live date, and help answer any questions once your account goes live. These are the people that you want to stay connected with as well as our call center supervisors or trainers should you need custom training.
When to Outsource Vs. Keep In-House
Weighing the option of hiring a call center, an answering service or taking your call center in-house should all come down to what your budget is and whether you have the right staff to handle it all. Outsourcing to a call center means you're going to have a fully-trained team understanding your business thoroughly so you'll only have to pay for the service rather than employees.
At Westpark Communications, we're one of the few call centers that are able to give you more comprehensive call center features. We can easily implement complex solutions for your business when scaling your communication solution up or down.
We're available to answer questions about the many call center services we provide. Read this guide to know what to look for hiring a call center.